Can you live in a caravan on private property in NZ?

In this blog post, we will answer the following question: Can you live in a caravan on private property in NZ? We will discuss the law surrounding life in a caravan in NZ and suggest a few places that will allow full-time living in your RV. 

Can you live in a caravan on private property in NZ?

Yes, you can live in a caravan on private property in NZ, but you must meet certain criteria:

  • The caravan is considered a separate dwelling from your main residence;
  • You must have access to a sewage system, greywater and rainwater;
  • There mustn’t be any complaint from your neighbours;
  • You can only live in the caravan on your private property for 60 days in one calendar year. After 60 days, you must move the caravan from the property!

Besides private property, in NZ you can legally park and live in a caravan at:

  • Private paid campsites; 
  • Properly designated camping areas;
  • DOC (Department of Conservation) campsites.

Can you live in a caravan permanently in NZ?

Yes, you can live in a caravan permanently in NZ, but you cannot park wherever you want for an indefinite time.  There is a general idea that in New Zealand you can park your caravan or pitch your tent anywhere and go wild camping, and this is not the case. 

First, because many of the areas are private property and second because some of the most tourist areas have suffered such mistreatment by campers that state or municipal regulations have had to be enacted that prevent or regulate camping.

How to find a place to sleep in a caravan in NZ?

Don’t assume anything, always go to the local i-SITE tourist information center where you are allowed to camp for a free camp or “freedom camp” (basically whether it is organized and set up in a camp) in a local area. 

Yes, that beautiful place perched on top of a hill that you saw when you went to town may be private property and spending the night camping means you will come to someone’s land illegally, with the results.

Many New Zealand towns and villages offer designated areas where you are allowed to camp for free. Other places to check if camping is okay, but with a small extra charge for amenities, include the Department of Conservation office (DOC; and holiday parks. Pay attention – and please obey – the signs indicating whether camping is allowed or not.

Best source of local information? DOC is your friend! Department of Conservation? These three words are the key to your amazing New Zealand backpacking and backpacking adventure. DOC operates over 200 campsites around New Zealand, typically priced between NZD 6-10 per person per night. They often include barbecues, kitchen shelters, toilets and access to running water.!

The best sites are by Lake Karapiro, a short drive from Hobbiton on the North Island; and Cascade Creek in Fiordland National Park to spectacular Milford Sound on the South Island. DOC also operates free camping sites, often located in even wilder areas, but these are often limited to fully autonomous vehicles as they often do not offer access to public toilets.

Best apps for finding camping sites in NZ

Add extra storage space to your phone or tablet before you leave home. You’ll need these for your Welcome to Maori, Mountain Biking, and Milford Sound videos, but you’ll also find a number of useful apps to download from Google Play or the Apple Store. Produced in association with DOC and the i-SITE network, ‘Official Camping NZ’ displays all legal camping pitches, free and paid, in the country. 

It’s approved by every New Zealand city council, and comments from other travelers on specific camping areas are included. Plus, you can download maps for offline use – a bonus, as mobile internet data in New Zealand can get expensive. CamperMate is a similar application to download.

The importance of sanitary facilities onboard your caravan

Read this very carefully if you are planning to live in a caravan in New Zealand… If you are driving a motorhome with sanitary facilities including a greywater storage system onboard, you have the right to stop and stay at authorized campsites without public toilets. (Note that sewage discharge facilities are mapped on various campsites and smartphone apps.)

If you drive a small motorhome or are in a regular car, camping is only allowed in campsites where a public toilet is provided. Why? Well, the answer is probably pretty obvious: Won’t New Zealand be forever beautiful if it’s strewn with toilet paper?

The Freedom Camping Act is the law

Sadly, due to the actions of some freedom campers around New Zealand over the past decade – including leaving garbage and toilet paper on beaches, roadsides and in bushes (!) – the country enacted the Freedom Camping Act in 2011.

This means that local councils have the power to impose a fine of up to NZD 200 per vehicle on anyone who stays overnight camping illegally. A few local authorities have also added an additional NZ $ 200 fee for tightening the wheels. This impulsive decision to illegally spend the night by a lake has the potential to get expensive, and yes, there are plans to ensure that fines are paid before you leave New Zealand.

With a wide range of free and inexpensive camping options and plenty of information on how and where to access them, fines are a harsh but fair sanction that enjoys wide support from New Zealanders.

Aspects to consider if living in a caravan in NZ

If you decide on living full-time in your caravan NZ, here are some things you must take care of as well:

  • Vehicle inspection: the WOF – By law, motorhomes in New Zealand must have passed periodic inspections, which control that the main safety aspects of the vehicle and mechanics are in good condition. It costs between $ 40 and $ 80 and can be done in most workshops in the country. 

After conducting the review, they detail the points that you need to improve. From there you have 28 days to repair it and return to the workshop to pass the test (free, since you already paid for it the first time). Obviously, if you are renting, this does not interest you.

  • The tax: the REG – It is a way to pay the road taxes. If you do not have the REG up to date, your vehicle is not authorized to circulate. The price depends on the size of the caravan, the type of fuel, the make and model, etc. It usually costs about $ 30 or $ 35 per month. 

The easiest thing is to go to any Post Shop with your current REG card, fill in the form and pay. You can choose the months you want to pay in advance, it is a little cheaper if you pay 3 or 6 months at once. This is also not a point that interests the car or van renter.

  • Electricity – The best option to recharge electronic devices are libraries. In the applications that we have put before you appear in all the public libraries where you can reload. Another option is restaurants, i-sites and we have even recharged in some public toilets.
  • Internet – Another big problem! The answer is almost the same as for the previous section: libraries! There are many scattered around the country and most have unlimited free internet, although we have found some with time limits or megabytes. You can also make use of the wifis at Burger King, McDonald’s & CO.

A good option is to get a SIM card with the Spark company, with which you have 1Gb a day by connecting to the company’s “hot spots” (they are pink cabins in cities). We have already told you how to buy a SIM card in New Zealand.

Final thoughts

Travelling and living in a caravan in NZ is a great option to visit the island and an amazing opportunity to wake up each morning to beautiful scenery. NZ is definitely worth visiting at your own pace!

Where are you parking your caravan in NZ? Feel free to share with our readers your thoughts, questions or comments on the content. 

FAQ on Can you live in a caravan on private property NZ?

Can you live in a motorhome permanently in NZ?

Yes, you can live in a motorhome permanently in NZ, but you cannot park wherever you want for an indefinite time.  There is a general idea that in New Zealand you can park your caravan or pitch your tent anywhere and go wild camping, and this is not the case. 

Where can I park an RV?

An RV is perfectly entitled to park in the parking spaces along the roadway. However, its size must allow it, it must not interfere with road traffic or pedestrians. However, due to its size, the motorhome cannot park everywhere.

Where to stop with a motorhome?

A motorhome can stop in town in a parking space and spend the night there. It does not matter whether the motorhome operators are on board or not, as long as they comply with the regulations.

Can I put an RV in my garden?

You can install your RV in your garden without authorisation if you are not using it as a home or as an annexe to your home. The RV must permanently retain its means of mobility (wheels, drawbar, etc.) to leave its location at any time.